By K.V. Aditya Bharadwaj / The Hindu

The ongoing campaign targeting Muslims in the State is spearheaded by fringe Hindutva organisations, some members of which have earlier faced criminal charges, raising concerns among the State police.

Sri Rama Sene, Hindu Janjagruti Samiti, a new organisation called Bharata Rakshana Vedike, and other organisations have been at the forefront of these campaigns and are constantly in the media limelight.

For instance, Pramod Mutalik of Sri Rama Sene has been spearheading the campaign against loudspeakers on mosques for azaan, and has been a prominent face of multiple campaigns including economic boycott of Muslims, halal meat, provocative processions on Rama Navami, and so on. A senior intelligence officer said that with his organisation splitting into multiple factions, Mr. Mutalik “has no strong base on the ground but has now emerged as a prominent face, particularly on television.”

A short cut

The Hindu Janajagriti Samiti, a few of whose members are accused in the murders of M. M. Kalburgi and Gauri Lankesh, has also gained ground over the recent months. New entities such as the Bharata Rakshana Vedike have also emerged. Individuals who have had a vibrant social media base and are known to make provocative comments have now graduated to leading physical attacks on minorities. “There is also a mushrooming of self-styled Hindutva groups floated by ambitious individuals who see this as a shortcut to a social profile today,” a senior police official said.

“The communal polarisation over the last four months in the State may form a fertile ground for recruitment into gangs carrying out communal crimes,” another senior official lamented. For instance, the gang that allegedly killed Gauri Lankesh recruited her shooter from Mr. Mutalik’s Sri Rama Sene, but without the latter’s knowledge, a senior officer pointed out.

A police officer, who had a long career in coastal Karnataka, said this manner of keeping the communal pot boiling for many months has already had an impact that today these campaigns have become successful outside the coastal districts as well.

“Violence over hijab spread to districts even in Old Mysore districts like Mandya. Mr. Mutalik inaugurated his campaign against azaan from Mysuru,” he pointed out, expressing fears about the “coastal model” spreading across the State and leading to “competitive communalism”.

Into drawing rooms

Vinay Sreenivasa, of Campaign Against Hate Speech, monitoring media for hate speech, said some news channels had not only been giving hate speech against minorities unchallenged space, but several television anchors themselves were indulging in it. Recently, FIRs were filed against the editor and anchor of a television channel for hate speech against Muslims. “Television is mainstreaming the Hindutva fringe into people’s drawing rooms every day for the past four months,” he rued.

While a section of the BJP towing the hard hindutva line has been vocally supporting these organisations, some in the ruling BJP are uncomfortable with fringe elements taking over. “It is true that the party thinks communal polarisation may help the party in the upcoming polls. However, encouraging fringe leaders can be dangerous. They can push the party to take more extreme positions, failing which they could turn against the party too,” a senior party office bearer said.

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